Public Lands Council discusses commissioners role on council
The question has come up in the Emery County Public Lands Council on whether or not the commissioners should remain as voting members of the council. Also, four positions are open on the lands council, the terms of Dennis Worwood, chairman, Tory Killian, Jim Gilson and Dickson Huntington all expired on Dec. 31, 2004. Worwood was on hand to conduct the January meeting. The vacancies were advertised during the month of December and five applications were received from community members.
Ray Petersen requested they advertise again for more applicants to fill the positions as people had indicated to him they missed the advertisement due to the busyness of the month of December. The council agreed that the vacancies be advertised again on Jan. 18 and 25. Applications are available at the clerk's office in the county building. The council will then make a recommendation to the commission for the filling of the vacancies from the applicants applying.
The discussion turned to the council structure. There has been some complaints to council members that the commissioners dominate the council and some people have stated they would like to be a part of the council if the commissioners were not voting members. Petersen went over the structure of the council, in the bylaws it states there are three duly elected commissioners and eight members of the council appointed by the commission. Any changes in the bylaws must be submitted by recommendation by the vote of the council and brought before a public hearing in commission meeting afterwhich the commission could accept, reject or modify the recommended changes.
The public lands council is an advisory council to the commission and the question was asked does it make sense for them to be on the council as well. Then it was stated it was not a question if they should be on the council, but whether or not they should vote. The commission ultimately has the power in the end to accept or reject any proposals or recommendations coming from the lands council on various issues. At this particular council meeting a citizen brought an issue concerning cattle and fencing and the right-of-ways for the passage of cattle. This discussion lasted at least a half an hour. This type of discussion on issues can take place in an indepth nature at the public lands council meetings. The various state and federal agencies as well as the Washington representatives are invited to each meeting to give an update. These work meeting type discussions do not take place at commission meeting. The commission meetings are of a more formal nature where items are approved or not without a lot of background and discussion taking place. The background on the issues is studied ahead of time so decisions can be made in a timely manner.
Commissioner Ira Hatch said if they aren't a part of the discussions and background in the public lands council then it would be harder for them to make an informed decision in commission meeting and some matters might be tabled until the commissioners could be brought up to speed on an issue.
Bruce Wilson, council member, said with removing the commissioners as voting members the council would still like their presence and expertise on the issues at the meeting.
Then the matter was brought up if the commissioners aren't required to be there then maybe other meetings and duties would take precedence over attending the council meeting.
Wilson said how can the council make recommendations if the commissioners can sway the vote. Hatch said the commissioners only represent three votes and the other members carry eight votes and they could vote against the commissioners.
Vernell Rowley, council member, said he thought it would diminish the power of the council without the commissioners.
Sherrel Ward, council member, said he looks to the commissioners as a source of information on issues with which he isn't familiar. He believes the commissioners should be a part of the council.
Wilson said the attempt is not to exclude the commissioners and Ward replied that these meetings might not take precedence over the commissioners other responsibilities.
Wilson asked Hatch how he viewed the role of the council. Hatch said the council is pretty important and a place where people can come in and voice concerns. He views the council as a resource that has worked well over the years as an advisory council. The various user groups have been able to let the commission know how they are thinking and dealing with issues related to their area of expertise. The council gives a better base to make a decision in commission meeting.
Wilson said he did not think the commissioners would lose any of that as nonvoting members.
Huntington said they all have the same goals and interests which is why everyone chooses to be involved with the council in the first place. He doesn't see any sense in eliminating the commissioners.
Worwood gave some background on the formation of the lands council. He said the county hired a firm to do a county master plan about 10 years ago. When the plan came back the commissioners weren't happy with it, so they found county people to write the specific sections of the plan. Craig and Eugene Johansen wrote the water part. Worwood wrote the public lands part, etc. The plan came through the process and was passed. Then the Republicans won control of Congress and the county thought it would be a good time to attempt to take care of the wilderness issue. So, a group was formed to put together a wilderness plan from the county. The plan from the county gave management ideas compatible with what the county people wanted and the legislation went nowhere.
The county recognized the value of having this public lands group and kept the group together that had worked on the county plan.
Huntington said he believes the removal of the commissioners would 'trivialize us.' He supports the commission and the free flow of ideas. He said there are some differences but he thinks they should leave it the way it is.
Commissioner Drew Sitterud said he sits on the Southeastern Resource Advisory Council for the Division of Wildlife Resources. He said that board has no power and they can make recommendations and they go to Salt Lake to the main RAC and they look at the recommendations and do what they want anyway.
Commissioner Gary Kofford said he views the council as a sounding board for the commission and for the public. He said the council has eight votes and with the commissioners three votes they can override the commission on an issue and put some pressure on the commission to find out more about the issue. "It has been said that the commissioners intimidate the rest of the board and you don't dare say what you want. You need to be strong enough to do what's best for the county. You need to appoint people strong enough in your feelings to carry forward and shape where the county goes. When the monument proposal was being talked about it seemed like all the lands council members hid out for two or three months before the vote and didn't really talk about it until a week or two before.
"To begin with I thought the commissioners didn't have a vote and now I've found out they have always had a vote," said Kofford.
It was decided to postpone any decisions on changes to the bylaws until the Feb.8 meeting at 10 a.m. A ballot for voting will be prepared. Voting options could include: leaving the council the same-no change, eliminate the commissioners as voting members and remove them from the council; or retain commissioners on the council as advisory members without voting privileges.